Kaizen is a Japanese technique that focuses of using small steps of continuous improvement to bring about big change. Intrinsically, this makes perfect sense, right? The best way to make a huge life altering change would be to take it little by little. Step by step. But for some reason, when I’m actually in the midst of making a big change I want results immediately. I hate my job – I want to quit and become self-employed tomorrow, I start a new business venture – I want it to be wildly successful overnight, I start a new blog – I want thousands of comments and subscribers yesterday.
I’ve noticed similar patterns of impatience among my fellow Gen-Yers. I believe that our generation has the greatest potential for making magnanimous changes to the world as we know it; however, all too often we succumb to expectations from others as to how we should be living our lives. The prevailing expectation used to be go to school, get a good job, live happily ever after, the end. But now we’re faced with the new expectation that we should all be living our dream lives and that life is too short to do stuff we don’t enjoy. There’s the assumption that if you are still working a 9-5, that you’re wasting precious time. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the idea that we should all be living passionate, ridiculously fulfilling lives. Life is indeed too short to be doing anything you don’t truly adore; however I do take issue with the ‘Live your best life right now’ approach. It’s enough to make even the most ambitious of us all feel seriously overwhelmed.
In order to make the huge changes we wish to see in the world, we need to take it step by step. If you’re actively working towards a bigger goal you are not spinning your wheels. Rather you are taking the necessary steps to materialize lasting, positive changes. Working towards a large goal can be overwhelming and it can be easy to get frustrated and give up when you don’t think you’re moving the needle. Acknowledge when you make it to smaller milestones. If there aren’t any small milestones – make them up. Instead of kicking yourself because you’re not one of Fortune’s 500 just yet, think about the smaller milestones you’ve accomplished – you gave your first workshop or your product was featured in a relevant magazine or you printed out a kick-ass brochure. And above all, give yourself credit for even deciding to work towards your end goal. Most people are just happy living the status quo.
There will always be tons of pressure to get to our big goals quick, fast and in a hurry, but we all need to stay true to ourselves and follow our own timelines. My advice for living your life on your own terms: banish the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary, ignore that little Negative Nelly in your head that is telling you that you’re wasting time because you’re not at your end point right now, develop your inner kaizen and remember the journey is half the fun.
Richard @ No More Compromise says
I totally agree with you on the importance of enjoying the journey and setting smaller goals along the way. Infact, I realized some years ago how motivating these small goals can be to keep you on the “straight and narrow”. Things like traffic targets, getting guest posts published, receicing positive fedback from website visitors, getting featured in the press and so on. All of these small achievements add up over time and so while the big picture is important, you’re totally correct about also looking for the smaller wins to help show you that you’re heading in the right direction.
Hey! Out of my head or pay rent! 🙂
So incredibly accurate. Especially with our tmi/add epidemic.
I’m glad we’re on the same page, Jeanie! 🙂 Thanks for the comment
Heather Rae says
Great article, Nailah! I think you are so right – we should celebrate the small steps that we take each day to reach our big goals. I often have this problem myself and feel like I should be doing everything *right now*. I have to remind myself that my big dreams and goals take time, and it’s okay to be working on my own timeline in order to achieve them. This reminds me of a quote by Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Excellent points, Heather. It’s so important to remain true to our own internal timeline for things. I love that quote – very appropriate. Thanks!
Great article, Nai. I agree that small steps should be celebrated especially since we can often get lost in our own goals or feel as if we’re falling short because we don’t accomplish them in a week.
Have you read this article? http://www.lifewithoutpants.com/life/breaking-away-from-generation-now/ Your post reminds me of it.
Thanks Alicia. Yeah I have fallen into the trap of wanting something big right away before. No fun!
Great stuff here, definitely. 🙂 I’m all for tiny celebrations! It’s what keeps me going some days.
I see a lot of people doing what I’d like to be doing, living by life-style design, already established, and I wish I was there… The funny thing is that all the people I look up to weren’t in that position overnight and I missed their whole journey up to where they are now. It’s hard for me to struggle through it when some people make it look so easy. I just try to remember that they started way ahead of me, and I’ll be there someday too if I work for it. 😛
And, for what it’s worth, reading The Four-Hour Workweek did introduce me to the concept, but then I looked into it more and ended up at places like this… I think the underlying principle has always been the same, but the end results can be very different. (I don’t revere the book for anything but opening my eyes to the fact that there’s different ways to live life out there, and I’m glad I found that out!)
Tiny celebrations are what get me through the week sometimes too! I feel the same way about looking to your mentors and wishing you were where they are right away. If you think about it they probably wouldn’t be as good as they are if they didn’t have to work for it, right? Thanks for the comment!
Yes! Life – whether it’s too long or too short – is most certainly wasted if we don’t continue to make small positive steps. I also agree that we can all apply this principle whether we work a 9-5 or we run our own business. It’s important to remember that we all stand to make a difference whether we work for someone else or we are our own boss. Thanks!
G @ Operation Backpack Asia says
Hey, I like it! I really like your idea of celebrating smaller milestones, that’s brilliant and I will be implementing it immediately! We can always find another reason to celebrate and reward, right!?
You make a great point about our generation’s understanding and perception of cause and effect. We watched our parents (or at least I and a fair amount of my friends did) work their jobs dutifully but unhappily; maybe when they took the job (40 years ago) they loved it, but when that love ran out they didn’t opt out but kept on plugging, either for lack of options or more likely because that’s just what they were supposed to do. In the end, some decided (my mom did anyway) that screw that, life’s too short to not do what you love, and encouraged me to go do my very best in whatever I want most. But you’re right, I think what we missed in general was that middle step; instead as a generation at large we acquired the (not irrational) thought that “ok I flipped the switch that Mom didn’t, so the light should be on now right? Omg the light’s not on? I must be doing it wrong! Omg it’s never going to come on! OMG PANIC!!!”
But it’s just an evolutionary process, and I think – maybe especially thanks to our digital age and the ability to exchange information quickly from all corners of the globe and all walks of life, in as much volume and depth as we can consume – we will be able to work out the kinks in our own self-gratifying and world-changing journeys within our own lifetimes and enjoy the hell out of our lives just like we’re supposed to (’cause Mom said!). This is great in two regards: a) we get to enjoy the hell out of our lives, and b) our kids will get to go even further than THAT.
Our generation isn’t perfect and it’s got its share of non-contributors to the (or “a”) forward motion. But overall, I’m still pretty proud and optimistic of and for us. I think our parents’ generation and those before them have left us with some fine messes to deal with and clean up, but they have also equipped us with a lot of tools, sensibilities, and…hopefully…motivation to do so. From what I’ve seen so far our generation is pretty darn diplomatic, kind, fair and open-minded when it comes to communicating with each other, even in times of contention or differing viewpoints.
I hope those aren’t things that we’ll “grow out of” as the older generations pass on and we become the leaders.
Great comment G! I know that in the case of my family, by the time I came along my parents were doing pretty well for themselves. They had achieved a lot of the great things that I’m striving for right now. But I missed the part where they had to struggle and scrape for everything. Maybe that also has its effect wherein I want everything my parents had plus more but I’m not fully taking into consideration their complete struggle.
I’m also pretty proud of our generation and I definitely hope we don’t grow out of the awesome traits that we continually showcase. 🙂
Ryan Knapp says
The reason we want it now is because we can have everything now. You click a button and pizza can get delivered, click another and you have a Netflix movie ready to go, click on more and you can talk to your significant other across the world.
But when we can´t have something right now, it´s a hit to us, and many don´t know how to deal with it.
I heard someone call our generation the “microwave generation” because we want to pop everything in and have it cooked and ready to go in like 90 seconds. I love all of the instant gratification that technology allows but it’s definitely important to realize that we can’t get everything quick, fast and in a hurry. And plus if we did, it would take a lot of the enjoyment out of life. Thanks for the comment!
Live Richly says
I think that’s valid about the microwave generation. However, I think there’s been some backlash lately, with Gen Y adopting some “slow hobbies” like yoga and knitting.
Financial Samurai says
Quarter Life Coach, nice! Never heard of that before.
Naliah, do you mind talking more about the quarter life coach business model on how to make money? Perhaps it’s fee based, or goal based? What are the things you provide for your clients and how do you get them to sign up with you?
I’m glad you like it! When I became a life coach I wanted to focus primarily on helping other 20-somethings because, well, I am one. I thought back to my own “quarter life crisis” and knew that it would have been helpful to have a helping hand or some resources. My business model is similar to a life coach’s model. I offer my clients one on one coaching, group workshops, home study courses, telecourses – basically a wide variety of ways to get the information they need. Some of the topics I focus on are lifestyle design, work-life balance, career design, goal-setting and getting unstuck. Feel free to email me or visit my site if you have any other questions. Thanks!
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
I do get a kick out of that fact that the lifestyle design/untemplater community, by-and-large, maintains that life is too short not to do what you love and looks to Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week as their bible. Yet Ferriss maintains, instead, that life is too LONG to not do what you love.
Carlos Miceli says
I’m all for generalizations, but this is a wrong one. Many of the authors never heard of Tim Ferris, another big group doesn’t like him, and another group likes him but criticizes many of his ideas. People have been doing the lifestyle design thing way before TF. He just coined the term.
Carlos Miceli says
Also, at the end of the day, it’ semantics.
Edward – Thanks for your comment! I actually just checked Tim Ferriss’ book out from the library but had a hard time getting through it. I would have to agree with Carlos simply because I very much believe in the Untemplate lifestyle but haven’t yet read 4 Hour Workweek or any other of Ferriss’ work. I do like the idea that you bring up: that life is too LONG to not do what you love. Thanks!
Chris Mower says
I agree with the Kaizen principle. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or a 9-5er, it still applies to you. I would maintain that whether life is too short or too long (who cares about the terminology, really?) that it’s wasted if you don’t continually make positive changes in your own life and in the life of others–making a difference is what matters and that can be at your 9-5 or as a freelancer, or as a business owner and entrepreneur.
Most people are compelled to change when there are small steps. The pressure to go from good to great overnight can be disheartening.
Adventure-Some Matthew says
I think that by recognizing the smaller goals, we’ll have a more sustainable enjoyment. When we’re only happy with the big things we’ll end up with fewer good moments, because they’re rather infrequent. However, when we focus on the smaller steps that get us there, we can celebrate much more often.
Maybe it’ll take me a year to get my advertising business up and running (one celebration) but each week I can complete a step that gets me closer (fifty-two celebrations!) The smaller goals will definitely keep me motivated towards that big goal, and help me avoid burn-out!
Yes, I agree that a more sustainable enjoyment can be attained by celebrating both our small and big wins. I’m glad to hear that this is something you are already incorporating into your life. Good luck with your advertising business!